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Sirico Parables book

For four days each June, Acton University brings together nearly 800 people to explore the intellectual foundations of a free society. This year, we’re opening up each evening’s dinner and plenary session for those who cannot attend the full conference!

Purchase single tickets for one evening or all four. Unable to travel to Grand Rapids? Every plenary will be available via livestream too. Hit the Register Now button to purchase tickets for any of the evening plenary sessions!

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Click on a night for more information:

Monday Night | June 19 - Rev. Robert A. Sirico

Tuesday Night | June 20 - Yeonmi Park

Wednesday Night | June 21 - Bishop Robert Barron

Thursday Night | June 22 - Marvin Olasky



Monday Night Plenary

Rev. Robert A. Sirico is president emeritus and the co-founder of the Acton Institute.

Rev. Robert A. Sirico
Rev. Robert A. Sirico
Acton Institute

President Emeritus & Co-Founder

Rev. Robert A. Sirico is president emeritus and the co-founder of the Acton Institute. In that capacity, he lectures at colleges, universities, and business organizations throughout the U.S. and abroad. His writings on religious, political, economic, and social matters are published in a variety of journals, including: the New York Times, the Wall Street JournalForbes, the London Financial Times, the Washington Times, the Detroit News, and National Review. Fr. Sirico is often called upon by members of the broadcast media for statements regarding economics, civil rights, and issues of religious concern, and has provided commentary for CNNABC, the BBCNPR, and CBS' 60 Minutes, among others.

Fr. Sirico received his Master of Divinity degree from the Catholic University of America following undergraduate study at the University of Southern California and the University of London. During his studies and early ministry, he experienced a growing concern over the lack of training religious studies students receive in fundamental economic principles, leaving them poorly equipped to understand and address today's social problems. As a result of these concerns, Fr. Sirico co-founded the Acton Institute with Kris Alan Mauren in 1990.

In April of 1999, Fr. Sirico was awarded an honorary doctorate in Christian Ethics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and in May of 2001, Universidad Francisco Marroquin awarded him an honorary doctorate in Social Sciences. He is a member of the prestigious Mont Pèlerin Society, the American Academy of Religion, and the Philadelphia Society, and is on the Board of Advisors of the Civic Institute in Prague. Father Sirico also served on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from 1994 to 1998. His pastoral ministry has included a chaplaincy to AIDS patients at the National Institutes of Health. He is the Pastor Emeritus of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Father Sirico holds dual Italian and American citizenship.

Tuesday Night Plenary

Yeonmi Park is a defector from North Korea, Human Rights Activist, and TED Speaker

Yeonmi Park
Yeonmi Park
Human Rights Activist and TED Speaker

North Korean Defector

Born in North Korea, human rights activist and TED Speaker Yeonmi Park grew up in a punishing society devoted to the worship of Kim Jong-Il. But at the age of 13, she and her family made a daring escape to China in search of a life free of tyranny. In her viral talks, viewed online nearly 350 million times, Park urges audiences to recognize—and resist—the oppression that exists in North Korea, and around the world.

Growing up in Hyesan, North Korea, it was normal for Yeonmi Park to see dead bodies as she walked to school, and to be so hungry that she ate wild plants. After watching a pirated copy of Titanic, the veil of tyranny began to fall. Having caught a glimpse of a free world, Park realized that her experience of life wasn’t the only one—and that she might one day find a way out. In 2002, Park’s family suffered a crucial blow when her father was arrested and sent to a prison camp for engaging in “illegal trading”—selling materials that no one would be punished for in a free society. In 2007, Park’s sister escaped with a friend before she and her mother followed her to China. But before they could locate her, Park and her mother were sold separately to Chinese human traffickers. In 2009, Park and her mother crossed the Gobi desert to Mongolia from China in -40 degree weather, finding their freedom in South Korea. She recounts this incredible story in her searing memoir In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, and in the insightful, moving talks based on her experiences.

An insightful and candid speaker, Park is fast becoming a leading voice of oppressed people around the world. At the Oslo Freedom Forum and the One Young World Summit in Dublin, she became an international phenomenon, delivering passionate and deeply personal speeches about the brutality of the North Korean regime. Her address to One Young World on the horrors of detention camps, political executions, and sex trafficking was viewed over 320 million times. The BBC named Park one of its "Top 100 Global Women."  

Wednesday Night Plenary

Bishop Robert Barron is the bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester (Minnesota) and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.

Bishop Robert Barron
Bishop Robert Barron
Word on Fire Catholic Ministries


Bishop Robert Barron is the bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester (Minnesota) and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. He is the host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, award-winning documentary about the Catholic Faith, which aired on PBS. Bishop Barron’s more recent film series, CATHOLICISM: The Pivotal Players, has won an Emmy award and has been syndicated for national television.

Bishop Barron is a #1 Amazon bestselling author and has published numerous books, essays, and articles on theology and the spiritual life. He is a religion correspondent for NBC and has also appeared on FOX News, CNN, and EWTN.

Bishop Barron’s website,, reaches millions of people each year, and he is one of the world’s most followed Catholics on social media. His YouTube videos have been viewed over 100 million times, and he has over 3 million followers on Facebook.

He has engaged in dialogue with Dr. Jordan PetersonLex FridmanDave RubinBen Shapiro, and William Lane Craig, among other influencers and thought leaders, and he has been invited to speak about religion at the headquarters of FacebookGoogle, and Amazon. He has keynoted many conferences and events all over the world, including the 2016 World Youth Day in Kraków and the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which marked Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States.

Thursday Night Plenary

Marvin Olasky is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute and an affiliate scholar at the Acton Institute.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky
WORLD Magazine

Former Editor in Chief

Marvin Olasky is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute and an affiliate scholar at the Acton Institute. He edited WORLD magazine from 1992 to 2021 and was a professor, provost, chairholder, and dean at The University of Texas at Austin, The King’s College, Patrick Henry College, and the World Journalism Institute from 1983 to 2021. He is the author of 28 books including The Tragedy of American Compassion, Fighting for Liberty and Virtue, Abortion Rites, Reforming Journalism, and Lament for a Father.

Dr. Olasky earned an A.B. from Yale University in 1971 and a Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 1976. He was a Boston Globe correspondent and a Du Pont Company coordinator, and has written 5,000 articles for publications including WorldThe New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and Fortune.

Dr. Olasky is a Presbyterian Church in America elder and has chaired the boards of City School of Austin and the Austin Crisis Pregnancy Center. He has spoken on six continents and his writings have been translated into Chinese, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, and Russian. He has been to 79 major league and spring training ballparks, all 254 Texas counties, and all three Delaware counties.

Marvin has been married for 45 years and has four sons, four daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. He has been a foster parent, a PTA president, a cross-country bicycle rider, an informal advisor to George W. Bush, and a Little League assistant coach.

Event Details

Start Date

End Date


DeVos Place
303 Monroe Avenue NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
United States


5:30pm Doors Open 

6:00pm Dinner

7:00pm Evening Plenary

8:30pm Hospitality


$100 per person


Paid Parking lots are available nearby.

The closest parking garages are located in DeVos Place off of Lyon Street, and City Hall/Calder Plaza off of Monroe Avenue.